Chickpea Stew



For Chickpea stew

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1 box San Marzano crushed tomatoes (about 28 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seed
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh mint chiffonaded (for garnish)

For Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes peeled and cut into even chunks
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • About 6 cups water (just enough to cover the potatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Sachet of a few sprigs of fresh thyme, 3 tablespoons whole peppercorn, 1 tablespoon coriander seed

For Kale

  • ½ pound kale stem removed
  • ¼ onion diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • A few splashes of tabasco
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup water

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Roasted Orange Juice Chicken


This is one of the simplest chickens I do and one of the best.  It comes from the Cookbook  ” The Scent of Orange Blossoms” authored by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane.

I first made this recipe when I was 13 years old for a project comparing Sephardic and Ashkenazy cooking.  I have used it so often since then that the book opens up right to the recipe.

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Lemon Lavender Poppy Seed Scones


The first recipe a cook masters holds a very special spot in their hearts. For me this spot is reserved for these lemon-lavender poppy seed scones. It was the first recipe I designed and remembered by heart and remains one of my specialties. A few years ago, I was flipping through Baking Illustrated when I saw a recipe for british cream scones. I became inspired and for the next month I spent any free time I had experimenting with scones. I love how scones are a great vessel for an infinite number of combinations. I must have made more than 15 batches of scones during that month ranging from classic plain to bizarre (but still yummy) strawberry with balsamic vinegar glaze. The lemon-lavender poppy seed stood out among the others, combining a classic flavor profile with a little twist. The top of these scones is crisp with a tangy and sweet glaze that has a tantalizing hint of lavender that keeps you coming back for more. The flaky crust is contrasted by a moist, buttery, cloud-like interior with a little bite from the poppy seeds and bright lemon zest studded into the crumb.  These scones are without a doubt one of the best confections I make, and now you can make them too.



  • For Scones
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • For Glaze
  • 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons very soft warm butter
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender (optional)

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Dream Bars (Potbelly)

I had been raving about the Dream Bars at Potbelly’s and finally my mom asked me to bring her one so she could try it.  As per usual, after a few bites of the sugary oatmeal, caramel and chocolate chip confection she said, ” I think we can do better, or at least as good”.  You can decide.

While Potbelly’s Dream Bars are soft, from being wrapped in plastic, ours have several distinct layers: crumbly oatmeal topping, creamy caramel and crunchy shortbread. Mom likes to add toasted walnuts or pecans to hers to cut the sweetness but for me and my  friends, the sweeter the better so I don’t add nuts.

Originally we used the wonderful but pricey Knudsen caramels but many sheet pans of cookies later my mom put her foot down and told me if I wanted to keep on baking sheet pans of cookies for my swim team I’d have  to make my own caramel and so she taught me. One day we’ll update the recipe to reflect our caramel recipe.



  • ½ sheet pan (18” by 13”)
  • Mixing bowls/tools
  • Measuring tools
  • Parchment paper


    • For Crust/Topping:
    • 1 ⅓ cup granulated sugar (about 9 1/2 ounces)
    • 1 teaspoon table salt
    • 32 tablespoons unsalted butter (4 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened to cool room temperature ProTip: To soften butter but keep cool, beat it with a rolling pin while in the package before cutting.
    • ½ cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
    • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (6 ounces)
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • For Filling:
    • 26 ounces good quality caramels
    • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
    • 8 ounces good quality chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is preferred)

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Pear Galette/Crostata with Star Anise and Vanilla (with variations)


Galettes are delicious flaky free form french tarts. This galette dough, published by Alice Waters but which she attributes to Jacque Pepin is easy, delicious and versatile. You can fill the dough with nearly anything you want, sweet or savory, from apples to zucchini. For this particular recipe I’m sharing, I took a journey back into my childhood for inspiration.

This recipe really brings me back to when I was a child. My mom makes a lot of amazing desserts, but there is one in particular that always fills the house with a tantalizing sweet aroma: poached pears. I’m also a little sentimental about the pears because they were the only dessert with fruit I would eat until I was 10. I know poached pears doesn’t seem that exciting, but my mom made them in a unique way. She would poach the pears in a simple syrup with vanilla, lemon, and a hint of star anise and serve it with a homemade chestnut gelato. The 3 bold flavors perfectly blended with the sweet earthy flavor of the pears.  This flavor is what I recreated for my galette filling.

If you don’t have time to make the crust, We highly recommend a product called “Ready-To-Roll-Dough”. It’s an all butter sough which comes in two forms: sweet and savory. It’s a remarkable dough, flakey, buttery and easy to work with. I find it at Whole Foods but you can contact them through their website and find out where else they distribute.


This galette is really versatile and I’ve done it with a variety of fruits. You’ll find pictures and suggestions at the end of this recipe.



  • For Galette Dough
  • 130 grams, (4.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch teaspoon salt
  • 85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 3.5 tablespoons ice water
  • For Filling and Topping Galette
  • 1 tablespoon roasted ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of pulverized amaretti
  • 5 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle and chilled
  • 1.5 pounds ripe pears
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Zest from ½ lemon
  • ½ Vanilla bean scraped
  • 1/8 tsp ground star anise
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons of sanding sugar (the larger crystals resist melting and add a nice crunch.
  • A little apple jelly (optional)

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Best Red Velvet Cake

10372774_10204552244420897_9083352211704006813_nI’ve always been a person with a major sweet tooth. Whenever someone asked me what my favorite food was I would always reply with my favorite dessert of the time (usually ice cream). However, I really wasn’t much of a cake guy. I thought chocolate cake was too dense and rich, and vanilla was too dry and bland. I was the kid at birthday parties who ate more than their share of pizza, and then didn’t eat any cake. Every year for my own birthday, my mom tried a new version of cake that she hoped I would like. One year it was vanilla buttercream, the next marble cake, the next devil’s food cake. Each year, to her dismay, I took a bite, smiled, told her it was pretty good, then took a second bite and said I was done. Then, when I was 10 I fell head over heels in love with a cake. It was just any cake though, it was ruby red velvet cake with luscious fluffy cream cheese frosting.

My mom was at her friend Patty’s house (who now owns a cupcake store in Chicago) and whenever she goes out I always ask my mom to bring me something home. On this particular day she brought me a slice of red velvet cake. Looking back, it comes as no surprise that the first cake I ever liked came from Patty’s house because all good things come from her house like my first video games or tickets to Cirque du Soleil. Even though I didn’t like cake, I liked trying new things and the cake’s red crumb contrasted by snow white frosting was hypnotizing so I had to have some. After that first bit I sighed and my body melted as I entered cake nirvana for the first time. It was moist and delicate and the frosting was fluffy and just a little bit tangy. I found my perfect cake and every year since then, my mom has made me red velvet cake for my birthday.

There is a lot of confusion people have when it comes to red velvet cake. Many people think it is just a chocolate cake that’s dyed red, which is far from the truth. Traditionally a southern cake, it has it’s own unique flavor. There’s some cocoa powder in it, but also vanilla. The unique flavor can’t really be described in any other way than yummy and unique. The tangy cream cheese frosting that is a must for the cake perfectly complements the moist and flavorful cake. While my mom is the one who makes me the cake for my birthday, I make red velvet cake and cupcakes as often as I can. I’ll find any excuse to whip up a batch of red velvet bliss.



  • For Cake
  • 2 ¼ cups (11 ¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (NOT DUTCH PROCESSED)
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce bottle) red food coloring
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups (10 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
  • For Frosting
  • 16 (2 sticks) tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

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Everything Blondies (Brieva Brownies)


Almost every student who has passed through district 65 and 202 in the past 10 years has at least heard of the legendary Brieva Brownies. For those of us who have had the chance to sink our teeth into one of the intensely rich and sweet Brieva Brownies, it was a life changing experience. I remember the first time I ever had one. It was in 2nd grade and at Kingsley Elementary School. Tess Brieva walked into school that day holding a large tray full of the deep golden brown bars flecked with all the colors of the rainbow. Immediately a crowd of her closest friends who had tried these delicacies before created a circle around her clamoring for them. As someone with a major sweet tooth I quietly sauntered over and asked for one. I took one bite and it was like love at first taste. Warmth and happiness rushed through every cel of my body. From that day on Brieva Brownies have been my favorite dessert, better than anything I could ever make or anything I’ve ever tried at the pastry shops in Paris I eat at every summer.

If you’ve never had a Brieva Brownie before I can’t fully put into words how amazing it is, but I will do my best. The first thing you notice when biting in to them is how perfectly chewy they are. Your teeth slowly sink into them. Then your taste buds are blitzed by deep toffee flavor, sugar and chocolate. The bar is like a sweet buttery vessel for all the toffee bits, chocolate chips, and M&M pieces within it. They’re rich, sinful, decadent, and Brievalicious (I have to make up a word to convey the culinary beauty of these baked goods). You can’t have just one either, they’re so addicting that you keep on eating them until there are none left or your entire body has shut down due to a sugar overdose. Mrs. Brieva should stick warning labels on her brownies that state they are highly addicting and consuming more than 3 at a time may result in instant death.

Brieva Brownies have been my culinary “white whale” for many years now. Every year for my birthday I ask Tess for Brieva Brownies. Whenever they’re available I do anything in my power to obtain at least two. Earlier this year Mrs. Brieva made some for a bake sale, so I drove across Evanston to the bake sale and bought up every Brieva Brownie they had left. Recently just having them wasn’t good enough I needed to be able to make them. I tried reconstructing the recipe 10 times in the span of a month, each time bringing my brownies to school and having Tess and my other friends familiar with Brieva Brownies, taste test them. Each time I came up short. The words “they’re close, but not as good as Mrs. Brieva’s” haunted my sleep. Finally I just gave up.

At the beginning of my Senior Studies project I had a brilliant idea, maybe Mrs. Brieva would teach me how to make her brownies for my project. I contacted her and she happily agreed to bake with me during spring break.

Mrs. Brieva is the epitome of an Evanston hero. She’s a loving mother, coach, and active participant in the community. I’ve known her for a long time, but have never spent much time with her, yet was lovingly greeted as soon as I stepped into the Brieva household. Learning to make Brieva Brownies from the creator and master of the recipe was a truly amazing experience. I find it very interesting how other people bake. I’m someone who pays attention to every little detail and measures out my ingredients very precisely. Mrs. Brieva on the other hand, uses the “eyeball method.” Maybe this difference in baking style was why my brownies always came up short. While she taught me, I quickly jotted down detailed notes so I could remember how to make the brownies since the only original copy of the recipe lies locked in Mrs. Brieva’s head. As we baked we had a really amazing conversation. We talked about my senior studies project and I made my 30-second project pitch to her daughters who went on to follow my instagram and check out my blog. We talked about her amazing kitchen that had 3 ovens and was very high tech and open. She told me that she redid and designed the kitchen when they moved in, much like how my mother gutted our kitchen when we moved into our house and we designed the kitchen so that we could both cook in it together. We also discussed college, and she even helped me decide where to go to college (following her advice, I committed to UW-Madison a couple hours after we finished baking). Finally I came prepared with a few questions I had about Brieva Brownies.

“How long have you been making Brieva Brownies and where did the inspiration come from?”

She responded with a story about her own mother. Apparently, her mother was famous for her chocolate chip cookies. Mrs. Brieva tried and tried and tried to replicate them, but just couldn’t do it. I found this very relatable, since I kept trying to make Brieva Brownies and fell short. Finally, Mrs. Brieva stopped trying to make her mom’s cookies and instead tried a bar and just kept adding in things like m&m’s and toffee bits. I followed up by asking her if she has since tried to make her mother’s cookies and she replied that she is done trying.

“How does it make you feel being known in the community for having the most outstanding baked goods?”

Mrs. Brieva said that it makes her extremely happy. She is happy when other people are happy so she’s glad she can deliver happiness in the form of her brownies. She went on to tell me that she will often gift people with Brieva Brownies for doing good things, whether it is part of the Evanston Angel’s Campaign or to the tech guy at the apple store for helping her out.

“Do you always have ingredients for Brieva Brownies on hand? Do you ever get tired of making them?”

When I asked this question, she had me come look in the corner of the kitchen where there was a stand packed with m&m’s, toffee bits, sugar, and chocolate chips. It was a stand completely dedicated to Brieva Brownie ingredients. There were enough ingredients in this stand to make enough Brieva Brownies to feed everyone in Evanston. Just as she popped the tray of brownies into the oven she turned to me and smiled and answered my last question with a simple “no I love making these.”

I had gotten 2 trays of Brieva Brownies, the story behind them, the recipe for them, and life advice, but there was one more thing I wanted before I left the Brieva household. I was dying for a picture of Mrs. Brieva holding a tray of her brownies. I asked her to be in a picture and immediately she started walking backwards away from me shaking her head and hands and saying “no no no.” Claire Brieva came over to us and said her mom doesn’t do pictures. I pleaded with her to do it for my blog, but it was the one thing she would not budge on. I found this whole situation hilarious and I think it speaks to Mrs. Brieva’s character. She doesn’t like to be in the spotlight or be given gifts or awards, what she truly gets joy from is raising her family and positively touching the lives of everyone around her. I finally settled for a picture of Claire and Jenna Brieva holding the brownies since I was determined to have a Brieva pose for a picture with the famous brownies. I left the house holding 2 trays of baked gold and a promise from Mrs. Brieva that we could bake together again soon; this time I would teach her one of my recipes.



  • 2 sticks very soft unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup brown sugar + 2 tablespoons
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 2 cups flour (use the dip and scoop method to measure)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips (12 ounces)
  • 1 bag Heath bar bits or toffee bits
  • 12 ounces mini M&Ms

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Fresh Fettuccine with Lamb Ragu

The difficult and time-consuming process of rolling out fresh pasta by hand is a long lost art. Back in Italy, my great grandmother’s pasta making skills were renowned. When she arrived in America she stuck to her roots and rolled out her own fresh pasta by hand until the day she passed. As an ode to her memory, I decided to try my own hand at making fresh pasta. Italian blood runs through my veins and making fresh pasta really brought me closer to my heritage and the memory of my great grandmother.

Thankfully pasta machines have been invented which yield pasta just as good as hand rolled. With the pasta machine, it is simple to make your own pasta at home, which is exponentially better than the pasta you buy in a box at the grocery store. The difference between dried pasta and fresh is that dried is made of semolina and water while fresh is made of flour and egg. Fresh pasta is more tender and flavorful than its dried cousin.

To go with my homemade pasta I really wanted to make a sauce. I figured that it would be a shame to dump store bought tomato sauce on my fresh pasta. In my opinion ragus, a tomato based sauce with meat, are the best type of pasta sauces. Bugialli, who is the king of Italian cookbooks, inspired the ragu I made. I used rosemary, onion and pancetta to build a foundation of flavor for my sauce then added in lamb, tomato and chicken broth. I also added a little red chili flakes to add a little punch. The lamb slowly cooks in the sauce creating a stew, slowly getting tender and releasing its flavor into the sauce. The end product is so tasty you could eat it alone as a soup.

While there is art to pasta making, there is also an art to cooking pasta. Pasta is one of the most commonly served dishes in the world and is usually cooked incorrectly. The proper way to cook pasta is to cook it in very salty boiling water until it is 80% done, then drain it, and finish cooking it in sauce. By cooking the pasta in the sauce, it allows for some of the sauce to absorb into the noodles and cling to it. Anytime you have a bowl of pasta with a pool of sauce on the bottom, it was cooked incorrectly.

While making your own pasta and sauce at home is more time consuming then opening a box of dried pasta and a jar of store bought tomato sauce, the reward is well worth the effort and the process is fun.



For Ragu

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless lamb shoulder ProTip: Have your butcher remove any silver skin and excess fat and to cut the shoulder into 1 inch cubes.
  • 1 medium red onion diced
  • 1 scant tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 5 ounces pancetta diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 14-ounce can tomatoes crushed ProTip: I like to use whole San Marzano canned tomatoes and then crush them by hand then drain off a majority of the canning liquid.
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon Calabria chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Pasta:

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • Large pinch salt

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Wild Blueberry-Lemon Muffins

I’ve recently come to realize that the most fun way to bake is creating new recipes and new twists off of old recipes. Once you have a simple foundation of baking and know how different ingredients affect your baked goods, (such as sugar providing sweetness and caramelization; or flour providing structure) you can go off on your own and create unique recipes. I urge all of you to make a few twists to your recipe next time you bake. I’ll admit, that in the past I’ve been guilty of following recipes exactly. Over the past 2 years however, I have been slowly experimenting more and more with baking. Nowadays, I almost never follow recipes and instead I treat the kitchen as my chemistry lab. I like to play with proportions of ingredients and see what will happen if I combine certain flavors. Despite some of my kitchen failures caused by making up recipes as I go, I have invented many successful recipes that are now some of my go to ones.

This particular recipe I’m sharing is one of my most recent concoctions. I started off by flipping through my trusty Baking Bible: Baking Illustrated. I saw they had a recipe for blueberry muffins, which was exactly what I was in the mood for. Upon further review of the recipe it seemed tasty, but a little boring. I wanted to add some excitement to the tired old blueberry muffin stereotype. I knew that lemon and blueberry pair beautifully and the lemon would brighten up the whole muffin so I decided to experiment with a lemon-blueberry muffin. The first time I tried out my idea I simply added some lemon juice and zest to the batter. The extra liquid made the batter to0 wet and lemon really overpowered the whole muffin. My next thought was to do some sort of lemon sugar topping, but when I tried it the muffin wasn’t lemony enough and the sugar wouldn’t even stick to the cooked muffin tops. I thought about doing a glaze, but it would be way too heavy and sweet to go witht the muffin. Failures when creating a recipe are normal and it’s important to not get down on yourself. The good thing is that my failures were still tasty just not exactly what I was looking for. Luckily for me, the third time was the charm. My final recipe consists of a decadently moist muffin bursting with blueberries that is topped with a sweet and sour lemon syrup and finished with a bright lemon sugar.



  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream (10 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, preferably wild ProTip: Use Wyman’s Blueberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • For lemon sugar topping
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • Zest 2 lemons

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Alba Style Rosemary-Sage Beef Risotto

At the young age of 18 my grandmother left home. She was unable to cook despite living in an Italian household.  She realized that she didn’t have her mother to make her delicious Italian meals so she decided to teach herself how to cook. Now 60 years later she is one of the best cooks I know. She learned all of the basics of Northern Italian cooking form by Marcella Hazan and Giuliano Bugiali as well as her mother. One of her signature dishes is risotto and whenever I eat this classic Italian rice dish it reminds me of her and what real Italian cuisine is. This authentic risotto recipe comes from Marcella Hazan. Risotto is an Italian rice dish where liquid is slowly added to the rice allowing it to release starch to create a creamy consistency. Risotto is the epitome of Italian comfort food; it has that decadent stick to your ribs flavor and consistency. It’s also one of those “kitchen sink” recipes , because you can put anything in it. I’ve made mushroom, sausage, and seafood risotto, but my favorite is this beef risotto. This risotto gets its flavor from pancetta (italian bacon), rosemary, sage, and good italian red wine.

People often think of risotto as something that is very difficult and only available at high end restaurants. It’s interesting how in it’s transition from Italy to America, risotto went from a homey comfort food to a glamorous dish served for $30 a plate. The truth is that risotto is very easy to make, it just requires good ingredients and a lot of babysitting of the dish. The risotto basics you need to know to make a good risotto are that it starts with caramelized onions and garlic then the rice is coated in oil and small amounts of liquid are added at a time while constantly stirring the rice. The constant stirring and slowly adding in liquid are where most people take mistakes, because they aren’t being patient. Risotto is a dish where lots of love needs to be added. Making risotto is definitely an arm workout, but the reward of a good risotto is well worth the 30 minutes of constantly watching over the risotto.

A risotto dinner is always something to look forward too, but I’ve found the next day is even more exciting. I always save about ⅓ to ¼ of the risotto and stick it in the fridge overnight. The next day for dinner, I like to make arancini. Arancini are fried balls of risotto with a gooey cheese center. Arancini have a crispy outside with a creamy risotto filling and gooey cheese at the center, what could be better?



  • 7 cups water mixed with 2 tbsp “Better than Beef Bouillon”
  • 2 cups Italian Arborio rice
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped pancetta (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage (plus more for garnish)
  • ½ pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup Barolo wine
  • Salt
  • Pepper

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